Washington, D.C. – Today’s confirmation of Robert Marbut, Jr., as the new executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is a serious setback in our country’s efforts to end homelessness. Dr. Marbut espouses dehumanizing and ineffective methods that are based on neither empirical evidence nor best practice. He eschews over a decade of learning, research and bipartisan agreement by rejecting “Housing First,” a proven strategy to reduce homelessness that prioritizes finding safe, stable, accessible housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The efficacy of the Housing First model is supported by two decades of research and has been identified by USICH as a best practice for ending homelessness. But Dr. Marbut calls for what he calls “Housing Fourth;” large-scale shelters with treatment facilities where people experiencing homelessness “earn” their right to beds within the shelter by exhibiting “good behavior” and are subjected to “24/7 programming.”
Dr. Marbut encourages cities to “cut the goodies” that he believes make living on the streets too comfortable. He often says he does not believe criminalization is the answer to homelessness, but he is a strong proponent of criminalizing much of the behavior and activity that make being homeless and living on the street bearable. He advocates for outlawing “street feeding” programs run by churches and charitable organizations, sleeping in public, and panhandling. If someone who is homeless is then found sleeping on the street, for example, the police offer the person a choice: go for “24/7 programming” at the homeless campus, or jail.
Homelessness is one of our country’s most urgent, tragic and solvable crises. The solution to homelessness is affordable and accessible homes. We have the resources to provide such homes to all those in need; we lack only the political will.
The appointment of Robert Marbut to lead the country’s only agency dedicated to ending homelessness is regrettable; any actions he might take to further criminalize or harm people experiencing homelessness would be reprehensible. NLIHC will work with advocates from across the country to oppose any policies that call for the criminalization or displacement of those experiencing homelessness and will continue to push for the resources needed to advance proven solutions to homelessness like Housing First.